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Sustainable living seems like a new idea to modern thinking; however, the idea has roots that wind deep into American consciousness. The notion of being accountable to none but one's self, of digging into the rich earth and coaxing the evening dinner is seductive. Add to our wide and deep independent streak global climate and energy crises and the ante is raised. For every person who wants to get back to the garden there is an individual way to achieve the dream. The five tips below on homesteading, gardening, canning, baking, and new energy choices may point the seeker in the direction of his or her dreams.
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Homestead and Gardens
Homesteading is not what it used to be, but it still is a way to leave freeways and supermarkets behind. The Guide to Country Skills, published by the editors of Mother Earth News, offers ideas to get you started. Their recommendations include to list what you want and need, decide where you want to live, and investigate free or reduced-price land opportunities. (See Resources, 1, p. 10) Pay attention the area you want to settle. Often land deals are in areas that do not offer many services. Read local papers and spend time in the area. Look into yurts as housing alternatives. Yurts are environmentally-friendly, affordable and comfortable.
If you want to guarantee fresh, local organic food, grow a garden. Growing your own food helps you to lighten your carbon footprint and live healthy. Start a garden where you currently live. If you live in an apartment, start hydroponic vegetables in a corner or on the balcony. A small kitchen garden outside the door of a duplex, city house or yurt can sustain you year-round with organic food. Start a compost heap to fertilize the garden and ease your effect on local landfills. Discover the difference between an organic tomato picked fresh from the vine and store-bought that traveled from Mexico. If you are going to get back to the garden, make it your own.
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Canning and Baking
Visit farmer's markets and grocers that sell healthy, whole foods. Buy fruits and vegetables in season and as locally grown as possible. If locally grown is your kitchen garden or balcony, all the better. Learn to preserve in season foods by canning. You can put up your favorite produce and make jam to spread on home-baked bread. Fill your pantry with the products of your handiwork.
Use organic flours to bake hearty and delicious breads. Whether on a homestead or living sustainably in the heart of the city or suburbs, homemade bread satisfies as little else can. It is simple to bake bread. For a no-knead, five minute bread, turn to Mother Earth News (See Resources, 1, p. 24).
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Off the Grid
Living off the grid is the Holy Grail for sustainable living advocates. By producing your own energy you can put an end to high utility bills and stop wasteful and dangerous consumption of fossil fuels to heat, cook and drive. Furnish power by grid-independent means. Install solar panels and/or wind turbines, but consider cost before installation. Both solar and wind require significant initial costs. Total off-the-grid energy requires batteries or a generator.
If you choose to stay grid-tied, your system will link to a utility provider. Excess energy produced but not used goes to the grid. If your renewable sources do not produce enough energy, you can tap into the grid for additional power.
Living off the grid can include water. Use a well as your water source. If possible, find land that has a well that is safe and operational.
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1. Guide to Country Skills, Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series,Fall 2009, p.10, 24
2. Modern Homesteading: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Modern-Homesteading.aspx
3. Tipis and Yurts: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Modern-Homesteading/2002-12-01/Tipis-and-Yurts.aspx
4. What Does Living Off the Grid Mean? http://www.motherearthnews.com/Ask-Our-Experts/Renewable-Energy/Living-Off-The-Grid.aspx